Lewis Rand (Mary Johnson, 1908)

In Virginia in the 1790s, Lewis Rand breaks from the tobacco planter life his father had intended for him to become a lawyer. He rises quickly in his field, and aided by his friend Thomas Jefferson, his political future in the Democratic-Republican party seems assured. He and Jacqueline Churchill fall in love and marry, much to the consternation of her Federalist family, and especially so to Ludwell Cary, who had hoped to marry her himself.

Rand falls under the spell of Aaron Burr and enlists in the conspiracy to establish an empire in the West. Before he takes the final step and ruins not only his own life but Jacqueline’s as well, Cary challenges him to a duel — the goal being to delay him long enough that the scheme unravels before Rand becomes too involved, and that’s just what happens.

Rand blames his foiled ambitions on Cary, and in a blind rage, kills him. There’s nothing that links Rand to the crime, and indeed he manages to establish a fairly convincing alibi. He escapes justice for several months, but Jacqueline’s pressing and his own conscious eventually lead to Rand giving himself up.

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The Firing Line (Robert W. Chambers, 1908)

Landscaper Garrett Hamil falls in love with socialite Shelia Cardross, despite the most horrible, most terrible, blackest-of-black stain on her character: she’s adopted. She loves him too, but there’s another problemĀ — a slight indiscretion from her youth. When she first learned the devastating news that she was not her parents’ biological child, she married the first boy that presented himself, Louis Malcourt, so that she could have a legitimate name. It was never announced, never acted on, and they’ve kept it a secret for years. The man realizes it was a folly and has repeatedly told Shelia to divorce him, but she can’t bear the thought of it.

As her love for Garry grows, so does her temptation to get a divorce. To save herself, she publicly announces her first marriage and moves in with her husband — who still rather thinks it’s a bad idea. Garry takes deathly ill, and during his illness, Louis realizes how strongly Shelia still loves him. Louis quietly steps out one afternoon to a lonely place in the forest and shoots himself in the head.